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Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies URPP Asia and Europe (2006–2017)

Medicine and Religion: ‘Traditional Tamil Medicine‘ in the Context of Religious Institutions

Responsible for the doctoral project: Nina Rageth, M.A.
Funded by: Humer-Foundation for Academic Talent
Project duration: since September 2014
Doctoral committee: Prof. Dr. Dorothea Lüddeckens, Institute of Religious Studies/URPP Asia and Europe; Prof. Dr. Johannes Quack, Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology/URPP Asia and Europe; Prof. Dr. Rafael Walthert, Institute of Religious Studies/URPP Asia and Europe
Research Field: Norms and Social Order(s)


Religious institutions play a remarkable role in the making of Siddha medicine, the traditional Tamil medicine in contemporary south India. Their involvement in the (re)invention of Siddha medicine can be seen with respect to various discursive and non-discursive practices: Religious institutions establish Siddha hospitals and clinics, operate Siddha medical colleges and produce and distribute Siddha medicine on a large scale. Furthermore, the content of the teachings and programs of the institutions represent the importance attributed to topics like the body, health, and healing. Setting out on this observation, the PhD-project examines these practices and their transfer from a religious context, in which they are generated, into a non-religious, namely medical context, in which they are provided, acquired and utilized. The project therewith looks at the role of these practices in the constitution of the religious and medical field in south India and aims at conceptualizing the form of relation emerging from this entanglement. The research takes a particular interest in processes of the production and distribution as well as the consumption of these social practices and is accordingly guided by questions regarding the economy underlying them.

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